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Paperback Pickings

Khushwant bashes the fundoos

The End of India (Penguin, Rs 200) by Khushwant Singh is a brief, lucid and doomful book. This veteran writer robustly assumes his natural right to political prophecy, providing us with the essence of his long and clear-headed perspective on communal violence in India — from the Partition to the Gujarat pogrom. Dedicated to “all those who love India”, this is a polemic against the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India, written in a prose that is entirely free of fluff. It is informed with an unsparing vision of Hindutva’s destructive potential, but avoids the apocalyptic tone in its commitment to historical truth, humane rationality and fearless simplicity. The prognosis is devastatingly simple. “These are dark times for India. The carnage in Gujarat, Bapu Gandhi’s home state, in early 2002 and the subsequent landslide victory of Narendra Modi in the elections will spell disaster for our country.” But the most startling chapter is the last one, “Is There a Solution'”, which outlines a new “religion” for India based on a work ethic, the endeavour not to hurt another person or living thing and to preserve the environment. This is a personal creed in which “violence is the ultimate form of vulgarity”. This remarkable book ends with these plain words by Ella Wheeler Wilcox: “So many gods, so many creeds, so many paths that wind and wind/ When just the art of being kind is all that the sad world needs.”

Saddam’s Bomb (Time Warner, £ 4.99) by Shyam Bhatia and Daniel McGrory is an account, by two US-based journalists, of the Iraqi president’s dream of transforming his country into a great nuclear power. “Deep below the presidential palace in Baghdad,” it begins, “Saddam Hussein has built his last hiding place.” That shouldn’t be too difficult to get too.

 

The History Of Cinema For Beginners (Orient Longman, Rs 270) by Jarek Kupsc is a tongue-in-cheek guide to the development of World Cinema: “a fantastic journey across the first one hundred years of film history”. The reader is led through this by the character of Professor Elmo Flicker, “a once-reputed film scholar who had fallen out of grace with the academic crowd”. He was banished from lecturehalls across America for teaching film with a “benevolent and humourous attitude”. This is a more or less entertaining, but rather shallow, book with funny and copious sketches, done by the author, who poses as the transcriber of Professor Flicker’s lectures on cinema, delivered to the “needy” as he takes to the streets and backroads of America in his VW van.


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